The web has been alight these past few weeks with the details of the Apple v. Samsung lawsuit. It’s been a unique opportunity to peer behind the curtain of how these two companies operate, as the trial seeks to answer the question: did Samsung copy Apple? But there’s actually another question that I think is much more interesting to the future of innovation in the technology industry: regardless of whether the courts say that Samsung copied Apple or not, would we all be better off if we allowed — even encouraged — companies to copy one another?
This is particularly relevant in the context of the Apple/Samsung trial, because it isn’t the first time Apple has been involved in a high-stakes “copying” court case. If you go back to the mid-1990s, there was their famous “look and feel” lawsuit against Microsoft. Apple’s case there was eerily similar to the one they’re running today: “we innovated in creating the graphical user interface; Microsoft copied us; if our competitors simply copy us, it’s impossible for us to keep innovating.” Apple ended up losing the case.